Navy SEAL Chris Sajnog Shooting Series: Rule #4 Focus – How To Focus On What Counts
By Chris Sajnog, Author Navy SEAL Shooting
The Old Rules of marksmanship taught us that to hit our targets we needed to line up the front and rear sights and aim those sights at our target. The problem with this, as I stated in my previous article, is that you can do these two things and miss the target every time — and many people do. Why is this? Because they are missing the most important detail on accuracy: The old rules say nothing of focus.
Let’s compare and contrast the old rules with the new using the power of the sun. In the old rules you might place something in the sunlight and wait patiently as the golden rays work their magic and the item gets warm. By contrast, using the New Rules you know you can focus the sunlight with a lens and the very same energy applied properly will do much, much more…damage. If done properly, with no more effort on our part, you could literally drill a hole in the same item. So let me be clear: The key to shooting quickly and accurately is to focus.
When I talk about focus, I do not just mean that you need to focus on the front sight. The new fundamental also applies to planning your training, how you train, where you aim, meditating, visualizing or anything else you do to improve your shooting. The more things you focus on, the better you will shoot.
Although my New Rules manifesto is not intended to teach these techniques, I do want to give a few examples to highlight how they are applied. To do this I’d first like to point out how this New Rule of focus is truly fundamental when it comes to shooting, whereas the old rules are not. When you understand how to actually focus, you’ll not only be able to shoot faster, you’ll also instantly start shooting with amazing accuracy.
Six O’Clock vs. Center Mass Hold
In the question of where to hold — center mass or six o’clock — the debate quickly ends when you learn to focus (no — I mean REALLY focus). If you are bringing your weapon up on target, you’ll need to take extra time to figure out where you need to hold so your rounds land in the center of the intended target area. (Unless of course you plan on being attacked some day by a rogue group of dots and bull’s-eyes.)
Another reason has to do with how your eyes work. When you use a six o’clock hold and focus on the front sight, the target becomes blurry. Your eye can’t find the exact bottom of that circle so each time you shoot, your shots are going to move around as your eye tries to figure it out. But, your eyes have the natural ability to find the center of anything, even if it’s blurry, so if you use a center mass hold your eye will be helping shoot more accurately!
The New Rules of Focus
The old rules have failed so many people because they talk about a result (sight alignment) rather than the fundamental requirement to getting there…Focus. Normally any mention of focus is more of an afterthought than something that is vitally important to hitting your goal. There are two battles you need to win in your fight to focus. You need to not only control your mind’s desire to look at your target; you also need to fight your eye’s efforts to help you focus.
One of the biggest tricks I learned in sniper school to dramatically help with front sight focus was to look for a scratch or defect on the front sight post and focus on that — aim small, miss small. Later (after watching an episode of Brain Games) I improved on this idea by putting a small mark on the top-middle of my front sight post. With this one small trick, I’ve seen people who have struggled for years to shoot tight groups put a mark on their front sight post and instantly start key-holing shots. You can do it too.
New Rules Shooters Get in the Zone
To be a New Rules shooter, you need to use the act of focusing to get in the zone. You’ll know when you’re in the zone because you’ve been there before. You’ve been there when you’ve played sports, music, or anything you’ve focused on so much that your performance was effortless and perfect — that is the zone and if you let yourself go there when you shoot, your shooting will be perfect and effortless too.
Something truly amazing happens when you detach from emotion, relax and focus on your front sight. Everything around you slows down and you can actually see more of what’s really happening around you. You can see this in the following images.
Look at the next picture and tell me what you see…
Does it look like it’s moving?
Now look at the next picture, but FOCUS on the mark on the front sight post for at least 30 seconds…
Did the movement stop?
The apparent movement is actually caused by your eye movements, not by the image. Your eye is trying to focus on too many things at once and this back and forth movement of your eyes is interpreted as movement in the image. These small movements are called Saccadic Movement. Your eye is trying to help you see what’s around you by moving only 1-2 degrees.
The important thing for you to know is how to stop it — focus on one point and don’t let your eyes move off of it until all movement around it stops. This is called front sight focus and it will dramatically change the way you shoot if you’ve never seen it this clearly before.
…if that one didn’t work for you or you need even more proof that focusing on your front sight post is critical to shooting accurately, check out the next image.
Now…on the next page you’ll see the same picture with a front sight post in the middle.
Focus on the post until all the dots disappear!
(You can do it, young Jedi)
Anything short of focusing this intently on your front sight — is NOT FOCUSING.
That’s what you want to happen to the world around you when you shoot in the zone. If you didn’t see that change, try it again and really concentrate on the mark — bring it into focus until it’s crystal clear and don’t look away even for a split second. Initially, even blinking or quick shifts in your gaze will make the dots reappear. Stick with it — practice and you’ll learn how to focus.
NOTE: It’s important that if you need corrective lenses to bring the mark into focus that you wear them when you’re training. I’ve seen the addition of glasses instantly fix years of poor shooting.
One thing you can do that will help is to take a picture of your front sight post and look at it repeatedly every day until it’s ingrained in your mind. Anytime you need to shoot quickly after that, your mind will be instantly drawn to the familiar image and your eyes will instantly focus on the mark and be able to quickly align the sights.
Rather than merely glimpsing to check for proper sight alignment, force yourself to stare at it for approximately thirty seconds. Especially when you’re first learning, this will help embed the image of proper sight alignment into your mind so that it’s more recognizable for you when you’re on the range or, more importantly, during a personal-defense situation.
New Rules Review: FOCUS
- Aim small, miss small
- Fight your mind’s need to look at the target
- Fight your eyes’ saccadic movement
- Get in the zone
- Focus applies to all parts of new rules shooting:
- The front sight post
Start practicing how to focus right now and you’ll be amazed at how much better you shoot. Focusing is a skill and just like anything else you do, you need to practice to get better. The great part about being a New Rules Shooter is you can (and should) train at home and this is going to save you a lot of time and money.
I’ll tell you exactly how to do this and why it’s scientifically proven to work better and faster than just going to the range and wasting ammunition in next weeks article: New Rule # 5 — Dry Weapons Training.
WATCH THIS VIDEO ON HOW TO FOCUS:
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